26 Aug 2015

Blood Angels Codex Summary Part V

The finale, the encore. Be prepared!
This is the last work in progress I had before my prolonged break and so I've merely added the finishing touches to it so as to elevate it to a state of readiness; the sister post to this article will fully cover my unreliability over the past year and what is really happening right now with everything related to Imperator Guides. In any case, hopefully you find some measure of usefulness from this aging work of mine covering a nearly year-old codex!

Heavy Support

Stormraven Gunship - The glory days of this famously iconic Space Marine flyer made popular by the Sons of Sanguinius and Knights of Titan might be in the past but this still ranks as one of the scarier models to face off against if you are unprepared, making it a nice tool in the arsenal of many a Blood Angels army. It is priced quite highly because it is the penultimate all-rounder of the skies; it is a heavy duty transport, very tough for its unit type and has a great deal of mixed firepower for handling most threats. It can ferry a Dreadnought in addition to twelve models - making it ideal for characters with Terminator retinues - while it has the unique ability to "drop" its cargo even while zooming, meaning it need not sacrifice the natural survivability offered by the skies just to disembark its units. Being AV12 on all sides and possessing an immunity to the conditional Armourbane rule of Melta weapons makes it rank among the top of the heap for flyers in terms of durability, while Power of the Machine Spirit allows it to somewhat bypass the penalties for Jinking. Its firepower is also rather impressive even if it does suffer from a lack of "focus", packing two mandatory weapon points and an optional pair of twin-linked hurricane bolter sponsons. Couple these facts with its size and the Stormraven has deservedly earned the moniker of a flying Land Raider Crusader, though as a flyer its role does differ quite significantly in practice.

All of that sounds wonderful until you realize that each of those benefits is paired with an equally obtrusive weakness or failing in comparison to other units, some of which have stopped players from using the Stormraven in favour of other alternatives. It goes without saying that the recent Space Wolf Stormraven-inspired duo put their progenitor to shame, even with regards to their transport capacity. Chiefly though a Stormraven suffers from its firepower being all over the place; it has two hurricane bolter sponsons that are both optional and expensive that don't at all line up with what the two primary weapons should be shooting at, while its overall firepower regardless of their inclusion just falls short of other similarly priced gunships. An Astra Militarum Vendetta might not be the under-priced monster of a flyer it used to be but it has very respectable shooting capabilities and can be expected to destroy almost any flyer it shoots at or at the very least force it to Jink, whereas this really isn't the case with a Stormraven. It's difficult to properly explain why this unit has fallen out of favour but mostly it is because it is inefficient compared to other options and ground transports are almost always better than flying transports; that extra guaranteed turn of movement or simply being the board as well as not having to worry nearly as much about being inside of an exploding transport can make all of the difference. I still like Stormravens though and if you want to stick to the Blood Angels codex for your army list then it is still the best - and only - flyer you have to work with.

Devastator Squad - These have been mega-buffed compared to their previous version wherein they had to overpay for all of their heavy weapons, though I would stop short of calling this a great unit because they lack a lot of the perks both regular Space Marine and Space Wolf equivalents have. A lack of access to Grav Cannons, inability to Split Fire and no innate Tank Hunters or other useful buffs leaves these as arguably the weakest Devastator unit among the usual Adeptus Astartes codices, though as mentioned prior this doesn't mean they are bad by any means, just that they lack a lot of the nice extras that set apart other Devastators. Having Furious Charge might allow them to fight a bit better than their competitors but that is hardly high praise given their dedicated long-range role; this is a unit comprised of a small number of high value models specialized for shooting, meaning that getting them into combat is almost always a losing trade. Otherwise, there is still a lot to like about Blood Angels Devastators; they are possibly the most efficient source of heavy firepower in the codex and will help to clog your opponents target priority if you make sure to field at least two squads in addition to multiple fast-moving close-range units. Field these in units of at least seven when on foot and in minimalist numbers in transports - unless you want to use a Blood Angel Skyhammer - to make the most of efficiency and protecting the more valuable heavy weapon carriers.

Baal Predator - Previously a Fast Attack choice and terror of all kinds of Space Marine players, one simple change pretty much neutered a previously good but not spectacularly great unit into one that is as mediocre as they come, and no, it was not adding a free Searchlight. Removing the Scout special rule from the Baal Predator pretty much eliminated any point to using it over a regular Predator given that it has no effective means of getting close to an enemy unit that it actively wants to fight, while the newer rule editions made destroying it in close combat easier than ever. That front AV13 might seem like a good enough deterrent to get it up nice and close but that's before one realizes the fragile side AV11 of the Rhino chassis and its longer comparative length to the front makes it far too easy to focus on and attack, meaning the Baal is very much a suicidal vehicle - especially with a Flamestorm Cannon. If you aren't using a Baal as a close-range cover-ignoring destroyer that it used to be, you may as well spend less on a harder hitting standard Predator that can actually survive because of its range. Moving this to the Heavy Support slot in direct competition with its generic twin may as well be the death knell for what was once one of the more unique and frightening tools in a Blood Angels players' arsenal; it's laughable that a standard Predator with an autocannon and two sponson lascannons is priced identically to a stock Baal Predator armed only with a twin-linked assault cannon or flamestorm cannon.

Predator - Speaking of Predators, these have seen a tiny increase to their base cost, no price change in the autocannon and heavy bolter build, and a gargantuan points reduction in every variant including one or more lascannons. This does come with the small note that the Fast upgrade is now optional rather than mandatory, but it is cheap enough that most players won't really care, especially for those that make use of the Annihilator patten (or tri-lascannon) Predator. If you are looking for a source of heavy anti-tank firepower and have little or no confidence in Devastators due to their easily exploited weaknesses, I highly recommend using Predators armed with at least lascannon sponsons; while they might not be as strictly efficient an anti-tank unit as Devastators in terms of raw firepower, what they do bring is durability. The range of Predator weaponry and their strong front armour means they can easily sit back and laugh off most shooting attacks that come their way while happily firing away, while they also have the option to innately redeploy when necessary unlike Devastators. This makes them a great alternative to that unit and easily one of the best options in the Heavy Support slot for pretty much every Adeptus Astartes codex.

Vindicator - This particular offshoot of the Rhino chassis fell out of favour early into 6th Edition and hasn't really regained any of its popularity due to the abundance of cover saves, its innate inaccuracy (hah!) how easy it is to disable or otherwise neuter and a whole list of other weaknesses. While the recent Space Marine codex helped to bring them back into favour with the re-imagining of a classic Apocalypse formation as a squadron benefit, Blood Angels were the first to try their hand at fixing the problem in keeping with their infamous unique fast Vindicators. Between a price reduction and an almost mandatory optional fast vehicle upgrade, Blood Angels Vindicators can still pull their weight unlike other Adeptus Astartes codices by helping to solve one of the core issues everyone has with the unit; being able to fire sooner and escape out of tight situations without sacrificing the ability to shoot. While the increased mobility won't fix all of the other problems Vindicators suffer from, it nonetheless gives the Blood Angels version a much needed leg-up over those from other codices and makes it a decently worthwhile unit on its own merits.

Whirlwind - I may as well be up-front about the Blood Angels Whirlwind; it suffers from being a Whirlwind that is not part of a recent Decurion-style codex where vehicle squadron benefits exist, while the unique Blood Angels benefit of Overcharged Engines realistically doesn't apply to a Whirlwind at all. With that out of the way, let us look at this unit on its own merits; it is cheap, it is fragile but can hide and keep firing due to its Barrage weaponry, it is a good albeit somewhat unreliable anti-infantry platform due to firing a single large blast without native twin-linking, and it does nothing else that really deserves mentioning. I like Whirlwinds because they can cull hordes and other medium or light infantry pretty darned well given their points cost, though compared to most other recent units of a similar type it definitely falls short. Putting a Whirlwind in the same sentence as Wyverns, Thunderfire Cannons, Lobbas and Thudd Guns - just to name a few - is downright unfair, but for Blood Angels specifically this isn't a bad option if you find yourself struggling with removing cover-camping infantry squads that love to hide from the rest of your big guns.

Land Raider (Godhammer, Crusader, Redeemer) - Like all of the other generic Space Marine vehicles listed here, I've reviewed this far too many times to really do anything other than reiterate my prior thoughts on the competitive standing of one of the Astartes' most classic toys, as well as provide an update on how it functions in the post Eldar and post Necron meta. Land Raiders received a lot of passive buffs from the core rulebook that initially elevated their popularity, though many still shied away from them because of their insane cost and easily replicated transport capabilities provided by alternative units. These vehicles are not efficient fire bases and never have been, but thankfully Space Marine players are never forced to use them as such as they do have many other ways to access heavy firepower. I monitored a quick surge in their popularity when 7th hit as I predicted but these quickly fell by the wayside once the nature of Maelstrom of War missions fully revealed itself.

However, the most telling blow to their worth comes with the recent Eldar, Cult Mechanicus and Space Marine releases; Destroyer and Graviton weapons exist in abundance because they act as natural counters to Super Heavies and Gargantuan Creatures that practically necessitate the use of those super-powered weapons. Unsurprisingly, both weapon types are true hard counters to Land Raiders and render their extremely expensive durability all but worthless - and as we all know, it is the fact that Land Raiders are so survivable for a transport that gives them their place in the Space Marine codices. Effectively flipping the key trait of a unit on its head is the easiest way to neuter it completely, an unfortunate side effect of the recent power-creep and "arms escalation" Warhammer 40,000 has been suffering through. As for which specific variants remain the most useful, the Crusader stands at the top of the heap for its strong and versatile firepower as well as massive transport capacity, with the Godhammer and Redeemer vying for a spot afterwards. I'm happy to say that my initial prediction of a Land Raider resurgence for 7th Edition ultimately proved wrong if only because it further exposes both how silly and often game-breaking the addition of fully powered Destroyer weapons can be and how ridiculous Graviton weapons are against certain armies.

Lords of War

Commander Dante - While I'm sure many would argue Kaldor Draigo is by the most valuable and powerful of the various Chapter Masters or their equivalents throughout the numerous Adeptus Astartes codices, Commander Dante almost certainly has his own claim to that title. The first thing you will notice is that he puts most other characters to shame in combat and even bests Draigo in a challenge assuming average rolls, though obviously the Supreme Grand Master of the Grey Knights is far more terrifying against anything that lacks Eternal Warrior as well as vehicles. Make no mistake here; having five attacks base at Strength 6 AP2 while striking at Initiative 6 - above average for a Space Marine character - is phenomenal, especially when you consider that Dante has Furious Charge and Master-Crafted to supplement his melee prowess. Combine this with his provision of Hit and Run as well as being incredibly survivable due to having a mixture of Eternal Warrior, a 2+ armour save, a 4+ invulnerable save and 4 Wounds, and you have easily one of the best value Chapter Masters of any codex. This is before one even begins to mention that he always has the awesome Descent of Angels Warlord Trait which provides reserve-based Blood Angels lists with an immaculate buff, while his place inside a death-star due to that aforementioned Hit and Run should be immediately obvious. That he even provides an additional Tactical Warlord Trait on top of his Descent of Angels each time you play a Maelstrom of War mission all adds up to one seriously impressive package, and heck, unlike almost all other Chapter Master equivalents he even has a Jump Pack for improved mobility. Adding in that he causes Fear in a 6" bubble while packing an Inferno Pistol on his person easily cements his position as one of the best special characters in 7th Edition thus far. He is brutal in close combat, incredibly survivable, unusually mobile for a character of his class, provides the godly special rule we all know as Hit and Run and gives your army some amazing passive bonuses via his potentially dual Warlord Traits, all at a price point lower than many of his fellow Chapter Masters. I would argue he is a superior overall choice to Marneus Calgar, Logan Grimnar and Azrael with little doubt in my mind, and he is at the very least a close second to Draigo in that sense if not his equal.

Gabriel Seth - Of course, the Blood Angels codex features not one but two Chapter Masters and oddly enough both of these have been moved to the Lords of War slot, something the recent Space Marine codex did not emulate with High Marshall Helbrecht and Pedro Kantor. In any case, reviewing the rules for Gabriel Seth after having just been filled with such high praise for Dante is rather depressing, unfortunately. I'll try not to be too negative here and focus on what makes Seth different from a standard Space Marine Chapter Master; for roughly 25 points over the generic codex version, Seth gains the Fearless, Rage and Rampage (via his Warlord Trait) special rules in addition to his unique Whirlwind of Gore rule, causing any to hit roll of '6' to generate further automatic hits. Combine this with his melee weapon the Blood Reaver that functions like an AP4 power fist without Unwieldy and you have one heck of a horde clearer, though Seth can surprisingly assassinate characters that lack Eternal Warrior if he manages to bypass their armour saves with Rending. Honestly, the value is there as far as melee combatants are concerned because anyone that can dish out an average of eight Strength 9 AP4 Rending attacks on the charge for less than 160 points ought to be respected, but there are quite a few problems I should address.

Firstly, he has poor defenses; a 3+ armour save and 4+ invulnerable save on a 4 Wound character can only carry one so far, especially as Seth himself lacks Eternal Warrior. Secondly, unless he gets lucky with Rending, he will get halted by any decently equipped character of a similar points cost, Eternal Warrior or no, and held up for more than a few close combat rounds. He is a melee-centric model - albeit a cheap one - that can easily handle vehicles and things like Tyranid Warriors, but there are far more efficient ways for Blood Angels to handle 2+ or 3+ armoured enemies in combat against which Seth struggles immensely. Besides, the things he is good at destroying are often best dealt with in shooting anyway as Blood Angels have no shortage of Melta weaponry. On another note, he does absolutely nothing for your army other than act as a close combat beast, and the problem is that he's not even that good at the only thing he does. Considering you have to expend a Lord of War slot to get him, he doesn't at all provide your army with anything worth using up that highly coveted slot; Dante makes a mockery of him as a melee monster, a tough Warlord option, a unit buffer and even army-supporting tool with lots of helpful side abilities. Dante brings numerous traits to the table that can't be replicated elsewhere in the codex, yet Seth may as well be an overpriced alternative to a squad of Death Company that additionally requires a bodyguard and some form of transportion as he himself lacks a Jump Pack or any innate Deep Strike capabilities. Honestly, he would be in a much better place if he had remained a HQ choice as at the very least he would be a relatively inexpensive and high-powered melee combatant to lead a force rather than a model eating up a slot it simply doesn't earn. This is not to say Seth is a bad choice, merely that he is an underwhelming Lord of War rather than a decent HQ as he should be.

Thank you all for reading the last of my Blood Angels articles! As stated earlier, this work was mostly finished a few months ago but my hiatus ensured that it never saw the light of day in its' appropriate time. As you will likely glean from the sister article to this work, I'm dissatisfied with these bare-bones unit reviews as I feel they take away from what made my works so unique; their depth and fair appraisal of every individual unit and its' many methods of use. I will work out what I can reasonably accomplish over the next few months as I gear up for a probable Tau release; in the mean-time, please leave any feedback you have for this delayed article as you please, I would greatly appreciate it! Thank you again!

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